Tested: 2015 Maserati Ghibli S Q4

This sleek sedan is the Italian response to a German-dominated field.

Bringing the Ghibli back into the fold as part of Maserati’s lineup is a move that should get newer (and younger) buyers to the Italian brand. (They did just break their all-time sales record in 2014.) For the price of a BMW 550i or an Audi S6, you can buy Italian flair and a lineage dating back over 100 years. (In addition to a car that won’t be seen around town as often, and one that sounds much, much better.) The brand with the trident logo wants to woo millennials with something distinct, different, and possibly provocative, because who wouldn’t want an automobile more distinct than a typical German sedan?

The 2015 Ghibli comes in two flavors: the base Ghibli, and the S Q4 (our test model). The S Q4 adds AWD and 59 more horsepower, though both their engines are assembled at bigger brother Ferrari, which explains their exotic sound...even with twin-turbo power that usually muffles some of the harmonics. With 404hp in the S Q4 mated to AWD and an 8-speed automatic, which can be transferred to manual mode via large fixed metal paddles, the Ghibli comes alive thanks to a torque curve that starts low and horsepower which finishes high. Though most buyers will leave the car in automatic for the duration of its life, there’s a good chance if you do switch over to flicking the paddles, you’ll surprise yourself with just how much fun there is to be had in this sedan.

A 3.0-liter V6 to producing this much useable power is an astonishing achievement, much like the BMW M4, which also uses turbo power. There’s abundance of linear, useful power, and with the 8-speed, you can use it for long highway stints and get decent range. No lag means that low-rpm throttle bursts are easy and addictive. The Ghibli doesn't roar like a lion; it growls like a leopard.

With the AWD, there was a noticeable “chatter” of the all-wheel drive at lower speeds inside the cabin. It wasn’t overbearing, but more of a function of the system working to maintain grip, which is a good thing, because it adheres to the pavement extremely well. You could get along by the simple “grip it and rip it” mentality as the system knows how to adjust to conditions, throttle and steering inputs.

The Chrysler roots are apparent—having stepped from a Dodge Challenger to the Ghibli, I noticed more than a few parts were carried over in the interior, cheapening the otherwise lovely leatherwork. Had I not literally moved from car to car in the same day, I might not have noticed, and I doubt shoppers will be heading from their Dodge dealer to their Maserati dealer for comparisons. The Ghibli needs to differentiate itself from the patriarch brand and offer a more distinctive interior befitting of its heritage.

However, it’s easy to live in the cabin. If you wanted, you could commute daily since the controls are easy to use and locate, but we did find the navigation took forever to calculate a root. Not sure if this can be fixed with an over-the-air update, but when it takes a few minutes to find where you’re going, it’s a bit frustrating.

We know it’s 2015 and cars need to adhere to strict EPA guidelines, NHTSA crash testing, and a company can’t survive without quality control checks that would make an auditor salivate, but the Ghibli is missing some Italian charm. The headaches that usually lead to pure pleasure (aka the noise and feel) overcome the hardships. For better or for worse, Maserati seems to have engineered the “Italian” out of the Ghibli.

We’re sure there’s an even more sport-orientated model coming, and it couldn’t be soon enough. The bones and structure are there, waiting for different tuning, stripped down interior with some weight loss, and AWD removed for a Stradale version. We would like the Ghibli to become a nimble, sports-focused athlete, much like its Ferrari cousins.

In our time with the Ghibli, we always left the cabin with our hearts at a regular BPM. Never once was there a fear of the car failing to start on a cold morning, or snap oversteer at the wrong moment. We know that everyone tries to de-stress their lives and become more efficient in a quest to be “happier,” but Italians are passionate, loud, and wear their heart on their sleeves. Unfortunately, the new Ghibli seems to leave some of that at the factory.

Specs

Efficiency: 15/25/18 mpg (city/highway/combined)

0-60 MPH: 4.7 seconds

Top Speed: 175 mph

Horsepower: 404 horsepower @5,500 rpm

Torque: 406 lb-ft @1,750 rpm

Cost: $77,900 (base)/ $91,930 (as tested)

Scout Rating: 2nd Round Pick


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